Haps debut emblematic of Suriname's progress
Suriname are one win away from next round of Concacaf World Cup qualifying
The task? Beat heavy favourites Canada
Ridgeciano Haps spoke with FIFA.com about realising a dream
Ridgeciano Haps grew up playing street football in Amsterdam, 7,500 kilometres away from the Franklin Essed Stadium in the Surinamese capital of Paramaribo, where the soon-to-be 28-year-old made his debut in FIFA World Cup™ qualifying on Friday and registered an assist in a 6-0 rout of Bermuda.
Like many of his Suriname team-mates, Haps had to juggle whether to represent the Netherlands national team, where he grew up and watched the likes of Robben, Van Bronckhorst and Van Persie play in the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ Final, or the birthplace of his parents.
"Every year I came to Suriname to see my family, to enjoy life here and to see the people, who are really nice," Haps told FIFA.com. "You feel the love from the people. I want to help Suriname to come up."
By the age of just nine-years-old Haps had already made his way to the holy grail of Dutch football: the Ajax Amsterdam academy. A technically-gifted player, Haps grew up playing as a left winger until the U-17 level when at AZ Alkmaar he shifted to left-back to help fill the team's needs, and he's been there ever since.
However his background as a left winger has naturally aided him in adapting to modern football where full-backs are expected to join attacks more frequently, so it came as no surprise to hear who his football idols are: "Roberto Carlos (laughs)! And I love Marcelo."
Although he never played for Ajax's first team, he says he still has the joy for the game that he played street football with in Amsterdam and that has seen him play 70-plus matches for AZ Alkmaar and now with Feyenoord. "I think about football 24/7."
Haps is one of seven players who ply their trade in the top Dutch divisions, while just one player on the national team plays for a domestic club (Robinhood). The Nato are all over the globe. Team captain Ryan Donk plays for Turkish giants Galatasaray and midfielder Roland Alberg's at Hyderabad in India, while the Cypriot League and the Saudi Pro League are also represented.
"[Representing Suriname] It means a lot. My family, my friends are here. It means everything for me. I will give everything for Suriname; not only for Surinamese football but the whole country. I want to put them on the map."
The Natio have been perfect so far throughout Round 1 of Qatar 2022 qualifying, winning all three matches, scoring 15 goals and conceding none in the process. The last time Suriname have won three World Cup qualifiers in a row was in 2008. Head coach Dean Gorre's side have won eight of their last ten competitive matches and are scoring for fun thanks largely to Israel-based Nigel Hasselbaink, nephew of Jimmy Floyd, who has two hat-tricks this campaign.
"We have a nice team forming. We have a lot of European-based players now. The quality is there. We have a lot of speed and strength. We have everything in our group. We've been training for a week and every training session gets better and better, so I'm really happy with the team."
It will all come down to their next match in Bridgeview, Illinois on 8 June against Canada, a team 66 places above them in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking and with a UEFA Champions League winner in their side.
"I know a lot of people are surprised about Suriname, but now we have to show it. We are ready for that."